Using Google+ for Social Networking

Michael Kwan
Google+ icon for +1

Google+ is among the most popular social networks. It has some similarities to other popular social media sites, but also offers features that cannot be found elsewhere. You can benefit from using Google+ to build your personal online presence, as well as for business marketing purposes.

Personal Social Networking with Google+

Google+ is a free social networking service that integrates with many of the other services offered by Google, including Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, and Google Contacts. It was originally launched in 2011 and it has since grown to have over 400 million registered users. Some of the basics you will need to understand in order to use Google+ for personal social networking include the following:

Updates

Google+ allows users to post different types of status updates, not unlike the experience you may have on Facebook. These include basic text-based status updates, but you can also post photos and videos, as well as link to outside content that can then be shared. Because Google+ integrates with the Google Drive cloud-based storage service, any files that you have saved to your Google Drive account can also be shared through Google+

  • The status update field can be found on the main page of Google+ where it says "share what's new." That is for text-based updates.
  • Next to this are the icons for uploading photos and videos or attaching links to other webpages.

Circles

Google+ allows users to "follow" the updates of friends, family members and colleagues. While it is possible to view updates from all friends all at once, Google+ also has a featured called "Circles" where contacts are organized into over-lapping groups. In fact, it is not possible to simply "add" a friend in Google+, as every new contact must be assigned to one or more "Circles."

Updates posted by the user can be shared publicly, with specific individuals, or only with certain "Circles." For instance, work-related updates may be shared only with the work "Circle," so that personal friends do not see it.

There are four default Circles. They can be renamed or removed at any time. You can also add more Circles as you see fit. The default Circles are:

  • Friends
  • Family
  • Acquaintances
  • Following (intended for people you are following, but don't actually know or don't want to put in a personal contact group)

Profiles

Every social network requires you to fill out a profile page and Google+ is no exception. To edit your profile, clicking on the "Profile" link in the left sidebar, then clicking on the button near the top to "edit profile."

Some profile information will be automatically linked and associated with your existing Google account. For example, if you already have information like your birthday or contact information posted there, these may get imported automatically. The profile also allows has fields for education, occupation, and other information, as well as a profile picture and cover photo. Be as comprehensive as possible with your Google+ profile, within the limits of what you want to make available online in a social networking environment.

Stream

Working in a similar manner as the "news feed" on Facebook, the Google+ Stream is where the posts from contacts - like status updates, uploaded photos, or shared links - are displayed. This Stream can be filtered by the various Circles described above. The filters allow for a more personalized social networking experience, as you can read only the updates related to your work contacts or only the updates posted by family members, and so forth.

Hangouts

Intended as a way to facilitate a group video chat, Google Hangouts are integrated into Google+.In a sense, Hangouts are similar to online chat rooms. This takes social networking to a different level, because it provides live, real-time interaction via video and online sharing.

Hangouts can be used for purposes such as:

  • Inviting friends and contacts to join a "Hangout" and engage in a multi-point video conference.
  • Sharing YouTube videos that can then be viewed by all the attendees together in real time.

Mobile Hangouts on Android and iOS devices are also supported, as is conventional text-based chat, plus audio chat through the web-based interface.

+1

On Facebook, there is the "Like" button where you can indicate that you "like" a certain update or post from a friend. The equivalent notion in Google+ is the +1. If two people "+1" the same update, there will be an indication next to the update that reads "+2." If there are three people who have clicked on that button, then it will read "+3" and so on. Users can also "+1" comments posted on updates and links.

Brand Marketing with Google+

Establishing a brand presence on Google+ is similar to what you would want to do on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

  • Create a business page: Rather than trying to promote your business through your personal profile, set up a separate page for your business or brand. While logged in to your personal account, click on the "More" icon in the left sidebar, then select "Pages" to get started.
  • Grow your list of followers: The more people who are "following" your Google+ profile, the more people will be reading your updates and engaging with your content. Do so by being active on the site as the business, sharing relevant content, following and giving "+1"s to relevant posts that you come across.
  • Encourage sharing and +1s: Do what you can to encourage your "followers" to share and "+1" the content you post on Google+. This creates greater visibility and gives you the potential to reach a larger audience.
  • Update contributor list: Under the profile page, there is a sub-section to add sites to the list of "contributor to." Add URLs for websites that the business or brand publishes on. This is particularly useful for businesses that have blogs and/or engage in article marketing. It's also useful for freelancers who may be writing or otherwise contributing to multiple websites. This also helps to add the author bio box to Google search results.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Google+

Google+ continues to gain a larger following, but it is not without its faults. The site's pros and cons include:

Pros

  • Integration with other popular Google services
  • Google Hangout video conferencing
  • Free for personal and business use
  • Circles allow for better contact management

Cons

  • Not as popular as Facebook or Twitter
  • Interface can be confusing for new users
  • Less integration with other social dashboard programs
  • Could be perceived as overly pervasive through other Google services

Enhance Social Media Activity with G+

While it may not be prudent to abandon such networks as Twitter and Facebook for Google+, Google's social network should not be ignored. It can be a viable addition to any personal or professional social media endeavor.

Using Google+ for Social Networking